Author: Hannah Moskowitz
Published: January 1, 2013
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy, Magical Realism
Rating: 2 stars
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“I could totally be a . . .My Thoughts
“On a boat?”
“Yeah.” He’ll sigh all wistfully. “I could be a sailor. But I’m too busy being a fish.”
― Hannah Moskowitz, Teeth
A gritty, romantic modern fairy tale from the author of Break and Gone, Gone, Gone.
Be careful what you believe in.
Rudy’s life is flipped upside-down when his family moves to a remote island in a last attempt to save his sick younger brother. With nothing to do but worry, Rudy sinks deeper and deeper into loneliness and lies awake at night listening to the screams of the ocean beneath his family’s rickety house.
Then he meets Diana, who makes him wonder what he even knows about love, and Teeth, who makes him question what he knows about anything. Rudy can’t remember the last time he felt so connected to someone, but being friends with Teeth is more than a little bit complicated. He soon learns that Teeth has terrible secrets. Violent secrets. Secrets that will force Rudy to choose between his own happiness and his brother’s life. (Goodreads)
What in the fudge did I just read? I have no idea. I distinctly remember reading this book, but I'm at a loss for words or feelings or just anything that requires thinking. Teeth is the epitome of wtfery. I've heard it called gut-wrenching, beautiful, and haunting, and so many people have raved about it, but I just don't get all the fuss. Teeth has a sharp bite, but I'm not entirely sure why I'm hurting and to what purpose.
I am a crazed hunter of mindfuck books, but this one was just perplexing on so many levels. Enter stage left: older brother Rudy who is trapped on an island while his family tries to cure his brother's cystic fibrosis with magical flipping fish. You heard right. Magical fish. This aspect actually intrigued me, but let's go on. Said boy meets two people about his age while he is on this island. One is a girl named Diana who is kind of a homebody, seeing as her mother never lets her go out into the big, scary world. We can definitely tell this by her awkward social skills and the fact that she's learned everything from books and not personal experience. The other is half human, half fish. This just keeps getting more and more interesting. Rudy is torn between his brother's need for the fish in order to survive and Teeth's vehement protests against killing his brethren for the sake of the humans he hates.
Rudy was such a tool. He is a very realistic, angst filled teenager who thinks about sex frequently. Half the time, I wanted to punch him in the face. The other half, I admired his deep love for his brother and his concern for Teeth's welfare. I actually think the island made him a better, stronger individual; it gave him some much-needed perspective. He sounded kind of like a douchebag before his isolation. But after the move, he started focusing more on what mattered and showing redeemable qualities. He began to question overfishing in the area and many of his core beliefs, and all because of Teeth.
Teeth had to be my favorite character because he felt so strongly about his cause. He was such a complex, mind-boggling character. Sometimes he was a brat and immature, but he had even less experience than Diana with the outside world, and that was just how he reacted to the unfamiliar. He had learned everything he knew from eavesdropping, and that wasn't a whole lot. I grew to love him and I wanted to protect him somehow since he was so vulnerable and, despite his suffering, innocent. Just as Rudy couldn't bear his pain, I too wanted to silence his screams. For me, Teeth was the reason I could keep reading because I needed to know what happened to him.
I loved the magical element of the fish's healing properties, but I can't say that I particularly enjoyed much of the book. It was painful, and when I reflect back on some of the more shocking moments, I found no meaning in them. Did they have a metaphorical purpose? Of course. But I was too turned off from the story to grasp what Moskowitz was trying to communicate. I have my guesses about environmental concerns and sexuality, but there's nothing concrete. For some reason, Teeth did not resonate as deeply with me as it seems to have done with other readers. It is a book that readers can finish and then discuss at length. In fact, they can discuss it till they're old and gray and never come to an agreement. The author leaves it up to her audience to discover the meaning behind the story, and that actually frustrated me beyond belief. Can you throw me a bone here, Moskowitz? If anything, I think Moskowitz tried a little too hard for complexity, sacrificing a deeper understanding for myself as the reader.
I wanted so much more from the secondary characters, such as Diane, her mother, Rudy's parents, and Dylan. I felt like Moskowitz was leading somewhere with all of them, and that there would be some development for them, but Moskowitz missed so many opportunities for characterization. It seemed like all other interactions paled in comparison to the relationship shared between Rudy and Teeth, which I understand is the main focus, but the other characters were just flat. I needed Moskowitz to breathe some life into them. Maybe it's because we only see them through Rudy's eyes? And Rudy is definitely all about Teeth.
I knew Teeth would be dark and gritty. I was warned. It explores the darker sides of humanity, and there are quite a few disturbing scenes. I had no qualms with the darker aspects. I just was not feeling it at all. If you want a challenging read that makes you think long and hard, I'd say go for it. But if you're looking for something more straightforward, I'd say stay away from Teeth.